UK’s soaring confidence in retirement overcast by health and care concerns

21 July 2016

McCarthy & Stone’s retirement confidence index reveals health and social care worries impacting on high confidence levels in other areas of later life

  • Inaugural Retirement Confidence Index launched by UK’s largest retirement housebuilder
  • Three in five (62%) of those aged 65 or over are optimistic about their life in retirement
  • But, two in five (40%) suffering worst health since retiring, and just over one in 10 (14%) positively rate the adult social care system
  • New Retirement Confidence Index shows a score of 6.5 out of 10, revealing generally high confidence levels among those aged 65 or over, despite health concerns
  • Index will be repeated each year to track confidence levels in retirement

The UK’s retirees have quashed negative stereotypes about retirement life by exhibiting soaring levels of confidence. The inaugural Retirement Confidence Index by McCarthy & Stone, the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder, reveals an overall confidence index of 6.5 out of 10, representing high national confidence for retirement living, albeit weighed down by concerns around health and social care provision.

McCarthy & Stone’s Retirement Confidence Index, developed in conjunction with YouGov, is based on responses from over 3,000 UK adults aged 65 or over, assessing their confidence in five key areas - retirement life, housing, companionship, health and finance. It takes the net confidence percentage on each question and provides an overall index figure, with 10 signifying the maximum level of confidence and 0 the lowest level.

At 6.5, the overall index highlights high levels of optimism in retirement[1]. This score is boosted by over three quarters (76%) of respondents disclosing they are confident that they will have a suitable level of companionship from friends and family, followed by 70% who feel they will have suitable housing and 69% who are confident that they will have enough money to fund their retirement. Overall, 62% of respondents are optimistic about their life in retirement. When asked about their level of optimism, responses included ‘I am determined to live life to the full,’ ‘I am healthy and can afford to live comfortably’ and ‘[I] have many interests and now have the time to pursue these.”

Retirement Confidence Index 2016 - health

However, only half (50%) believe they will stay relatively healthy to enjoy retirement life and health worries are the major concern for those aged 65 or over across the UK, dragging down their overall level of confidence. Two in five (40%) say their health has worsened since they retired and almost a third (31%) feel that they will have difficulty remaining in their current home due to possible changes in their health and/ or mobility. There is also considerable concern about funding for future care needs with more than a third (36%) saying they are somewhat or very concerned about how they will pay for this support.

With local authorities facing increasing pressure on funding adult social care, the Index reveals respondents’ deeply negative view for this type of care. Just over one in 10 (14%) respondents would rate their experience or perception of adult social care as good. When asked why, respondents cited various reasons, including ‘It is not properly resourced,’ ‘…there are areas of neglect’ and ‘poor quality of care and carers’.

Whilst 38% of retirees expect their family or friends to provide care and support, two in five (40%) feel it is likely that they will have to pay privately for long-term social care, either in a residential home or for care received at home. In order to pay for at least some of the private care they need, 61% of retirees expect to release some of the wealth tied up in their home, via downsizing or equity release.

With public investment in the adult social care system unlikely to increase, there is a growing need to look for other solutions.  Downsizing could be one option, with almost half (47%) of those aged 65 or over having a preference to live in a home with fewer bedrooms, and the positive impact that suitable housing has on health. 

Retirement Confidence Index 2016 - optimism

Clive Fenton, Chief Executive Officer at McCarthy & Stone, said:

“High levels of confidence in retirement is encouraging. After years of hard work, older people want to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Their ‘extended middle age’ can be a period of optimism and new beginnings, and the majority of retirees demonstrate a positive approach to retirement life. 

“However, retirement is also increasingly becoming overcast with fears around declining health, as well as worries around how to pay for social care and the quality of provision. People are concerned about how they will manage if their health deteriorates, who will look after them, whether they will be able to remain in their current home and get the proper care and attention they need. These concerns are real and have a wider impact on society.

“It’s essential that we have the right infrastructure and services in place to address these concerns.  Downsizing into better housing is one solution, particularly if their new property is in a supported environment and people can release equity to pay for future support. This form of housing keeps people healthier, happier and active for longer, meaning they are less likely to need care. Sadly, the chronic under-supply of this form of housing means the UK is woefully underprepared for the issues facing us.”

With more than 11 million people aged 65 or over, just c.141,000 units of specialist retirement housing for ownership have ever been built in the UK. McCarthy & Stone has been campaigning for a greater provision of more suitable housing in later life, calling for national and local policy makers to use the planning system to focus more on the housing needs of older people. More suitable housing reduces the need for social care in later life, and thereby limits the impact of the ageing population on local and national government budgets. 

McCarthy & Stone plans to repeat the Retirement Confidence Index each year to track changing sentiment in retirement living. 

See a summary of the Index’s results here. 

Table 1: Retirement Confidence Index 

Retirement factor

Net UK confidence  percentage

Optimism net confidence score: Optimism about life in retirement


Housing net confidence score: My home will be suitable for me as I get older


Social net confidence score: I will have a suitable level of companionship from friends and family as I get older


Health net confidence score: I will stay relatively healthy as I get older


Finance net confidence score: I will have enough money to fund my retirement as I get older


Retirement Confidence Index


[1] Regionally, those respondents over 65 years old living in Scotland and the North East of England are the most confident with overall index scores of 6.8 each, followed by Wales at 6.7. Although still high, the East of England registers the lowest overall index score with 6.3.


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